Timing … Timing … And Timing …

A few days ago, I suggested here that the significant jump in the NFL salary cap would cause folks to shake their heads at some of the contracts offered to good-but-not-great or even promising-but-unproven players. In terms of real estate, they say the three most important factors are “Location … location … and location”. Looking at the free agency frenzy this year, I think it is clear that the three most important factors for cashing in on free agency are:

    Timing …
    Timing … and

If reports are accurate, Brock Osweiler will over the next 3 seasons make $7.9M more than Tom Brady will make. Sure, Osweiler is younger and perhaps Tom Brady may not last for 3 more seasons. Nevertheless…

Recently, CBSSports.com had a report saying that Roddy White blamed Falcons’ offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, for screwing up the Falcons’ season last year and blamed Shanahan for the team decision to release White. That report had the potential to become a “juicy story” but it seems to have blossomed and then faded into oblivion. Obviously, I have no insight into that situation whatsoever. However, I have said before and will say again here:

    If Kyle Shanahan’s last name were Flabeetz, he would not now be nor would he have been given a job as an offensive coordinator at such an early age.

Let me just suggest that Shanahan the Younger had one glorious season in Washington and then helped to preside over one of the most dysfunctional teams in North American sports for a couple more years. He next surfaced as the offensive coordinator with the Browns for a year; that was anything but a success and he asked out of his contract in Cleveland – admittedly a smart move – so that he could take the Falcons’ offensive coordinator job. Now this report…

Aubrey McClendon was a minority owner of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. McClendon was also currently charged with violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act; the charges include bid-rigging and improper collusion with regard to oil and gas contracts. Obviously, the details surrounding those charges are way above my pay-grade so I will not try to explain them here. Given the other news items related to McClendon, I suspect they have to do with securing fracking rights because he was routinely referred to as “The Shale King” and/or “The Fracking King”.

Earlier this week, Aubrey McClendon died in a fiery crash when the vehicle he was driving hit a bridge support at high speed and blew into a fireball. That happened one day after the Federal charges for anti-trust violations became public. Obviously, this has led to speculation that he took his own life. In terms of his ownership of the Thunder, he was a 20% shareholder in the group that originally bought the Seattle Supersonics back in 2007. Subsequently he increased his share of ownership buying out one of the other minority owners.

You may remember his name from back in that time; he was the minority owner who “let the cat out of the bag” regarding the purported willingness of the new owners to keep the team in Seattle if they got the kind of arena deal they wanted. It was McClendon who infamously said:

“We didn’t buy the Supersonics to keep them in Seattle.”

That significantly undermined the NBA’s negotiating position to get a new playpen for the team and then-Commissioner David Stern fined McClendon $250K for running his mouth. Given that he was probably worth something comfortably north of $1B at the time, I doubt that he minded.

Changing the subject here, perhaps someone can explain to me the current fascination with Ronda Rousey. Simply put, I do not get it. For a while she was a dominant force in MMA competitions beating many opponents in only a few seconds. She also engaged in a war of words with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the subject of which one would kick the other one’s ass and how often. Since my over-arching view of MMA as a sport is that it is pro-‘rassling where the blows actually land and the blood is real, I saw that interplay with Mayweather as typical promotional fodder. Never did I expect to see the two of them in any sort of ring engaged in a real fight.

Then Rousey lost a fight. Not only did she lose, she was KO-ed. But that seems not to have diminished her celebrity status even a little bit. There were reports that she revealed that she had suicidal thoughts in the days after her defeat. Given the previously convenient promotional exchanges with Mayweather, I took those reports with a grain of salt. It seems that the latest installment in her celebrity diary is that one of her rival MMA fighters has said that she is finished as a fighter because she is more interested in having a baby. There was another report calling Rousey a “broken woman”. Here is my question:

    Will there ever be a lid put on this sort of stuff?

I admit that I am a troglodyte and often have difficulties understanding the core of modern pop culture. That is why I need someone to explain this fascination to me because it makes no sense in my worldview.

Finally, much has been made of the Ivy League’s decision to ban tackling from its football practices during the season. Brad Rock of the Deseret News had a very interesting interpretation of that decision:

“Ivy League coaches have voted to ban tackling in practice during the regular season.

“Instead, players must shout out the Euler-Lagrange Equation to bring down a runner.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Coaching Instability…

In professional sports, one of the indicators of a team successful over a long period of time is stability in the coaching ranks. Gregg Popovich has been the coach of the San Antonio Spurs since 1996; the Spurs have been very successful over that span of time. Bill Belichick has been the coach of the New England Patriots since 2000; the Pats have been very successful over that span of time. Mike Scioscia has been in the dugout with the LA Angels since 2005; the Angels have only had 2 losing seasons over that span and have never failed to win 78 games in a season. Compare those examples with the Palermo FC in the Italian Serie A.

This team is the poster-child for coaching instability; they just changed coaches about a week ago; this is the 12 “new coach” for the team since June 2012. I put “new coach” in quotation marks on purpose because for some of the individuals involved the coaching position was a revolving door.

    Giuseppe Sannino coached from June 2012 to Sept 2012

    Gian Pierro Gaspirini took over in Sept 2012 and lasted until Feb 13

    Alberto Malesani took over then and hung around until March 2013

    Gian Pierro Gaspirini came back in March 2013 and lasted less than a month

    Giuseppe Sannino returned to coaching in March 2013 – completing the circle of life? – and stayed for 3 whole months until June 2013

The owner of Palermo FC is Maurizio Zamparini. Either he has the attention span of a kitten or he is in the pantheon of meddlesome owners worldwide. Here is the more recent coaching history for his club:

    Giuseppe Iachini had been the Palermo coach for 2 years – an eternity there. He started in Sept 2013 and was comfortably ensconced until November 2015. Note that November 2015 was only about 4 months ago. Then…

    In Nov 15 Giuseppe Iachini was fired and replaced by David Ballardini

    In Jan 16, Ballardini was fired and replaced by Fabio Vivani

    In Jan 16 (less than a month once again) Vivani was fired and replaced by Giovanni Tedesco

    In Feb 16, Tedesco was fired and replaced by Giovanni Bosi

    In Feb 16 (less than a month yet again) Bosi was fired and replaced by – – wait for it – – Giuseppe Iachini


Unsurprisingly, Palermo is in 17th place in the Serie A and is exactly one point out of the relegation zone with 10 games to play. If the owner has had trouble getting along with coaches while his team is in the top league, just imagine how happy he will be should the squad get relegated at the end of this season.

Bernie Lincicome – as a Special Contributor to the Chicago Tribune – had a column there where he decried the 3-point shot in basketball. Truth be told, I tolerate it but if I were Dictator of the Universe, it would be relegated to history. My dislike is not even close to his; I never called the 3-point shot an abomination. I commend this column to your reading in its entirety and here is a sample to whet your appetite:

“The 3-pointer has become as dull as the intentional walk, and any competent player in the NBA can make a 3. There is no special skill to it. Some are better than others just as some are taller than others or more agile than others. They do not get an extra reward for being so. This is nothing against those who do it well. The concern is how easy it has become and how it has altered the game.

“A basket should count what a basket counts. If we start assigning greater value to the length of things, Pinocchio never would stop lying.”

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had a recent commentary on the 3-point shot and Steph Curry’s proficiency:

“Too good: Move the 3-point line back because of Stephen Curry? Did the NBA consider raising the basket when Shaquille O’Neal dominated? Here’s a suggestion for teams frustrated by Curry’s quickness and range: Figure out a better way to guard him.”

I have no quarrel with Professor Molinaro’s reasoning and conclusion here. I would have to point out, however, that the NBA has – in the past – changed rules because a player was too dominant under the old set of rules. Recall that the free throw lane – and thereby the 3-second violation zone – was more than doubled to assure that Wilt Chamberlain could not set himself up so close to the basket. My only point here is that there is precedent for the NBA to make such a specifically focused rule change.

Finally, Greg Cote had this observation in the Miami Herald last weekend with regard to the start of an annual sporting event:

“The Iditarod sled-dog race is underway in Alaska. I wonder if Sarah Palin can see it form her backyard?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Getting Out Of One’s Own Way

Yesterday, I said positive things about the classy way Peyton Manning handled the announcement of his retirement. Today, I would like to turn attention to the other end of the spectrum. After the 2016 inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced, Terrell Owens took umbrage at the fact that he was left out. He played the “disrespected card” and made some comment about how Cris Carter had “begged his way” into the HoF. His comments reinforced in everyone’s mind two things that are apparent about T.O.:

    He has a strong narcissistic streak.

    He does not have even a 10-nanosecond delay line between his brain and his mouth.

There is a wide-receiver who will be inducted this summer; Marvin Harrison made it into the HoF and Harrison did not appreciate Owens’ fulminations. Here is what he said during a radio interview:

“The person who was supposed to get in got in. And that was me. If he didn’t get in, that’s his problem. He can talk all that other bullsh*t like he’s been doing. That’s on him. But I’m in. My jacket is gold. I will look in the rear view for nobody. So he can get his ass in whenever he gets in … if he gets in. If he doesn’t get in, too bad. The hell with him.”

If T.O. had said those words, people would have been marginally surprised at his potty-mouth but few would have shocked. Marvin Harrison was sort of like the “Silent Cal” Coolidge of the NFL during his career; he rarely said anything let alone anything at that level of candor. But there it is and there you have the essence of T.O.’s “problem” with Hall of Fame voters.

As I noted before the voting on the finalists was revealed, Owens’ numbers written on a piece of paper with no relationship to the human being who generated those numbers demand that the player be in the Hall of Fame. Having said that, the path to “getting a gold jacket” demands also that the player in question pass through the filter of a few dozen voters. Like it or not, those voters are humans and they will always put things in context when they ponder a decision they consider to be important.

The fact of the matter is that Terrell Owens still does not realize how off-putting he can be. Consider for a moment that Owens played for 5 different NFL teams. Even if you spot him his last two teams as merely the last gasps in a productive career wherein the team hoped he could recapture his prior productivity, that means that 3 different teams had enough of him and his antics while he was still performing at a Hall of Fame level.

    The Niners did not move Heaven and Earth to keep him in SF at age 30.

    The Eagles shed no tears when he departed Philly at age 32.

    The Cowboys just moved on when he left Dallas at age 35.

    Oh, and along the way he probably did not endear himself to anyone in Baltimore after reneging on a contract deal there. It was an ugly mess…

The two obvious personal characteristics I noted at the start of this rant allowed teams to deal with him taking his talents elsewhere without having the team sink into a terminal blue funk. The sort of outbursts we saw after his exclusion from the HoF this year surely would not have been “positive locker room leadership”. Moreover, this sort of tantrum-like behavior is likely to remain in the minds of a few of the voters – many of whom will be back “in the room” sifting through the final candidates. I wonder if Terrell Owens even recognizes that fact.

On the flip side of the coin here, try to imagine the induction speech T. O. might give somewhere down the line when he does in fact join the Hall of Fame. It could be memorable…

Former Cowboys’ RB, Joseph Randle, was arrested in Kansas on a warrant that says he failed to appear in court. At this point, I usually try to point out that final judgment needs to wait until more facts are in. Indeed, that remains the operative stance; but in this case, I might be tempted to conclude that Randle is living his life just a bit off-center. This is the sixth time he has been arrested by police in various jurisdictions in the last 18 months on charges to include inter alia theft, drug possession and assault.

Randle spent three years as a “student-athlete” at an NCAA Division 1-A school maintaining his eligibility all along the way. I have no idea what courses he took, but would it not be ironic if it turned out that he was a criminal justice major?

Bob Molinaro had this item in a recent column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Major slippage: After they blew another game – losing to the Clippers after being up 16 with 7:26 to play – it’s impossible to take the Oklahoma City Thunder seriously as a title contender. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may be fine entertainers, but the Thunder, who had a chance for redemption late Thursday night at the Warriors, are proving to be underachievers, chokers even. They’ve lost nine games this season when taking a lead into the fourth quarter. Only the 76ers have lost more that way.”

I am shocked by this commentary. I am not shocked by Prof. Molinaro’s assessment that the Thunder are disappointing underachievers; they certainly have played that way recently. Here is what I am shocked by:

    I would never have thought that the 76ers had held the lead at the end of 3 quarters enough times to top the Thunder in that “League of Lowness”.

Finally, one more item from Bob Molinaro:

“Did you realize that you can bet on MLB spring training games? Nothing says compulsive gambler quite like throwing good money at bad split-squad games featuring minor-league pitchers.”

He is right you know…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Venting My Spleen…

Excuse me, but I do have to vent some spleen here… Last evening, my long-suffering wife said that she really had a craving for Chinese food and suggested we go to our favorite Chinese restaurant. That sounded like a great idea to me and so we did. It is a 2.5-mile drive from our house to the restaurant and on that short drive home we counted 4 – that FOUR – homes that still had their Christmas lights up and turned on.

    Memo to Whomever: It is March 8! I do not care how religious one is nor how happy one might be during the Christmas season for secular reasons; you need not continue the celebration into March.

    I can understand if somehow you fell and broke a hip and cannot climb a ladder to take down the lights and put them away. I cannot understand why you feel it necessary to illuminate them announcing to everyone who passes by your home that you are an asshat. Pull the plug on the lights or do not flip the switch to turn them on.

    That is all…

Given that evidence of my current state of crankiness, you should not be surprised to learn that I did not react well yesterday to an announcement from the US Olympic Committee. That august organization announced the details for the 2016 Road to Rio Tour – sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance don’t you know. The Tour’s purpose is to

“…bring the spirit and excitement of the Rio Games to fans throughout the United States.”

Now before you think that I need to up the dosage on my meds because this is just a harmless announcement, let me inform you that the Road to Rio Tour began last year. So, if you are going to take the position that this is an important way for the Committee to pump up interest in the Games, tell me three things that have happened on the Tour already. Since you almost assuredly have no idea that the Road to Rio Tour existed in the first place, you surely cannot tell me where it has been or what it has done. So, here is the next event; you can prepare to be excited.

On 27 April, the Road to Rio Tour will be in New York City at Times Square to begin the “100 Day Countdown” to the Rio Games which start on 5 August. This extravaganza on Times Square will:

“…engage fans through athlete meet-and-greets, interactive sport elements, athlete demonstrations, Team USA giveaways and sponsor activation.”

The USOC Chief Marketing Officer had this to say about the “100 Day Countdown”:

“We have the most passionate fans in the world, and because of events like 100 Days Out and the Road to Rio Tour, we are able to bring the energy of the Games to more Americans than ever before.”

    Memo to Chief Marketing Officer: “Most passionate fans in the world” is not a phrase that belongs in the same paragraph with events such as “synchronized diving”, “canoe slalom”, “rhythmic gymnastics” and/or “modern pentathlon”.

I do not know about you, but I am certain that on April 27th I will have some meaningless and inconsequential thing to do with my life which will take precedence over paying even a moment’s worth of attention to the start of the “100 Day Countdown”. Maybe I will go to those houses that still have their Christmas lights up and volunteer to take them down for the homeowners.

One other recent announcement was a bit unsettling. The retailer – Sports Authority – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced the closing of hundreds of its stores. I know that the idea of “creative destruction” is considered to be a fundamental element of capitalism, so I do not give a fig if Sports Authority reorganizes and survives or reorganizes and “goes paws up”. However, the fact that people are not buying enough stuff from Sports Authority to keep them afloat now raises a question that has bothered me for a while.

The Denver Broncos play their home games in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Sports Authority pays the Broncos more than a little money for those sponsorship rights and whenever any deal such as that one is announced, the folks doing the paying exult in the great value they will derive from paying millions to a football team to name a stadium.

    Memo to the Sports Authority Financial Mavens: So, how’s all that “promotional benefit” working out for you?

My spleen is vented. As Gomez Addams was wont to say:

“I’m feeling MUCH better now.”

Notwithstanding what Peyton Manning did or did not say to Bill Belichick after the AFC title game, Manning’s retirement announcement means that the 2015 season was indeed his “last rodeo” as an NFL QB. You have been inundated in the past day or so with summaries of Manning’s statistical accomplishments; I will not repeat them here. Suffice it to say, he was a great QB and if he is not a first-ballot inductee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it will be a shocking turn of events. What impressed me as much as his on-field accomplishments was his retirement announcement.

    Clearly, he wrote those words himself; those were not the words of a PR spokesthing.

    He thanked and acknowledged more than the usual suspects for such a speech and by doing so he honored those other folks.

    If the emotion he showed at points in the speech was “faked”, then Peyton Manning should be a favorite to win an Oscar after he stars in his first movie next year.

Tony Kornheiser said on Pardon the Interruption that Manning might be “running for Commissioner” of the NFL. I have no idea if that is the case but given the performance of the incumbent Commish over the past couple of years, it may not be such a horrible idea…

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about the outcome of a recent sports-related lawsuit:

“PGA Tour caddies lost a lawsuit in which they sought compensation for having to wear bibs with advertising. Dear fellas: Your job consists of carrying a golf bag, telling your guy, ‘178 yards’ and collecting up to 10 percent of his earnings for doing very little. Quiet, please!”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Admin Note

Over the weekend, I encountered e-mail gremlins. Some readers here have requested an e-mail notification when I post a new rant; that mailing list was one of the files corrupted by the gremlins. I have reconstituted it from memory – but my short term memory is not what it used to be.

Therefore, anyone who fell off the mail list who wants to be back on – – or anyone who wants to be added to the list anew – – just send me an e-mail at:

    [email protected]

Sorry about that…

Football Fidgetings…

The NFL free agent season is now close enough that when you look at a list of potential free agents, you can reasonably expect the great majority of them to be available. Sure, there is still time for an “eleventh-hour contract signing” or two, but I think that is about all that could happen in the next couple of days. I think this free agent season arrives at the conjunction of two phenomena:

    1. The NFL salary cap is up significantly this year. Teams that were at last year’s cap now have cap room to sign players to expensive deal(s); teams that were way under the cap or who created cap room in the days since the Super Bowl now can “mega-spend”.

    2. The list of free agents is pretty much devoid of eye-popping star players – certainly not enough such players to absorb the large amount of cap space out there. So, some of the good and serviceable – yet not great – free agents look to cash in this year to an extent that they might not have imagined at this time last year.

Not that anyone asked, but here is my assessment of the free agent candidates that might be at the top of the list by position:

    Quarterback: Slim pickings this year. Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick look like the pick of the litter to me despite Osweiler’s very limited résumé and despite the fact that Fitzpatrick will be 34 years old in the middle of next season. RG3 is a boom or bust proposition for whichever team signs him.

    Running Back: Doug Martin had a nice year last season but his total body of work is not stunning. Matt Forte is awfully close to his “sell-by date”. I think the two backs who merit “investment consideration” are Chris Ivory and Alfred Morris.

    Tight End: No impact players here. Probably the best one on the market is Antonio Gates – potentially a Hall of Fame inductee – but he will be 36 years old before training camp convenes.

    Offensive Linemen: Alex Mack and Russell Okung are the best players available at these positions.

    Wide Receiver: No impact players here either. If available at bargain-basement prices, I might take a flyer on Reuben Randle or Travis Benjamin.

    Defensive Backs: There are several players here who ought to get nice paydays out of this free agent season. Sean Smith and Janoris Jenkins are both young and talented cornerbacks. Walter Thurmond has played cornerback and safety competently at the NFL level. Eric Weddle has been an All-Pro at safety (not just a Pro Bowl participant) twice in his career and there is still tread on the tires.

    Linebackers: Danny Trevathan is really good and he is just about to turn 26 years old. Jerrell Freeman is also really good but he will be 30 years old when training camp starts. I think Bruce Irvin who will turn 29 in the middle of next season is the best player at this position on the market.

    Defensive Linemen: Malik Jackson should get some very nice contract offers; he deserves them. The big question is whether Mario Williams – at age 31 – showed that he was out of gas last year or if he just did not fit into the Bills’ defense under Rex Ryan. Some big run-stuffers are available but they are not youngsters such as BJ Raji, Haloti Ngata and Terrence Knighton.

Let the feeding frenzy commence…

When I was a kid and used to go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon, there were always a few cartoons that “warmed up the audience” prior to the main attraction. In those cartoons, a standard visual was for a character to come to an understanding of a situation with a light bulb turning on over his head. That was the image that came to mind last week when I read that the folks who run the Sun Belt Conference made the decision to kick the University of Idaho out of the conference come 2017. Let me be clear; Idaho had no more business being in the Sun Belt Conference than the University of Saskatchewan does. Why Idaho was ever invited/admitted to the conference remains a mystery to me.

The University of Idaho is known as The Vandals; over the past ten years or so, they might also have been known as The Vagabonds. Since the start of this millennium, Idaho has been in the Sun Belt Conference, then the WAC, then an independent, and then back in the Sun Belt Conference for a second time. The school says that it is examining its options for the future – no surprise at that sort of statement – and one of the options might be for Idaho to drop a level to Division 1-AA and join the Big Sky Conference. Geographically that makes a ton more sense than the Sun Belt Conference ever did.

For the record, the Sun Belt Conference will also kick New Mexico State out of the conference in 2017. The Aggies have been one of the least competitive teams in college football over the past several years – but at least Las Cruces, NM is part of the Sun Belt; Moscow, ID – not so much.

    [Aside: The last time New Mexico State was in a bowl game was in 1962 when they were in the Sun Bowl and beat Utah State. It has been a long time since the Aggies were any good.]

I have read some reports saying that New Mexico State could be joining C-USA after leaving the Sun Belt Conference. Whatever… Unless the school finds a coach who can recruit and motivate squads that are far more competitive than has been the case recently, does it really matter which “minor conference” the Aggies finish at the bottom of?

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding the upcoming NFL Draft:

“North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz may be the first quarterback taken in the draft. Scouts are excited to see what he can do surrounded by NFL talent. Forget that, I’m excited to see what he can do on a field where the temperature is over 9 degrees.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Good News From ESPN…

Back in 2010 when ESPN was televising the World Cup, I wrote that I really enjoyed the British announcers that ESPN had gathered up to do the games. You can read why I enjoyed those telecasts here. In that posting, I said that my favorite announcer of the lot was Ian Darke who has continued to be associated with ESPN on and off in the intervening years. Earlier this week, ESPN announced that they had extended their relationship with Ian Darke.

According to the announcement, Darke will be the main announcer for US Men’s and Women’s National Team games including friendlies, games that lead to qualifying for World Cup competition and any World Cup games that fit into the schedule. As is often the case, there is a lot of management speak and high-fallutin’ verbiage that accompanies such an announcement. This was no exception but in this case, I tend to agree with much of what the management-speak boils down to:

“Ian is one of the finest English-language commentators in the world and his work has elevated our overall presentation of soccer since he joined ESPN. Ian has become a destination listen and has the proven ability to appeal to a wide audience. We are thrilled he will continue as an integral member of our team for years to come.”

The new contract extends through 2020 which means he will be on ESPN for the next men’s and women’s World Cup games. I like that…

In the NBA, the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour meanders on. I use the term “meander” here not in the sense of “aimless wandering” but to connote its random happenings in various NBA cities. Plenty of commentators have spent time and energy trying to put Bryant’s final season into some sort of context with regard to his “legacy”. Such commentary seems to take one of several forms:

    These celebrations are for the fans who want to see him play just one last time and for players who have been his opponents and/or teammates in the past to acknowledge him as “one of the greats”. Therefore, this set of extravaganzas is all good.

    These celebrations are nothing but a dog-and-pony show that the NBA and various teams are milking for all it is worth. It overshadows the NBA season and demeans the NBA product.

    These celebrations unfortunately culminate with Bryant playing in a real NBA game demonstrating that his once prodigious skills are no longer present. This distorts completely his legacy; this is like watching Willie Mays stumbling around in the outfield trying to find pop-flies in the sun.

There is a nugget of factual basis in all three of those sorts of commentaries meaning that all of them are sorta right but not completely right. I only want to address the “tarnish the legacy” argument here. My problem with this sort of thinking is that sports legacies create and maintain themselves and they do so without much help from commentators and they do so on a long term basis not a memory of the final performance of the athlete. We remember Willie Mays as a great baseball player despite his final days in uniform; we remember Muhammad Ali as a great champion despite his final performances in the ring. A truly great athlete who attains and deserves a “legacy” is not a “one-hit-wonder”; he/she has earned whatever legacy exists by means of sustained superiority.

I really think the commentators who lament the “tarnishing of the legacy” here miss a very important point. Kobe Bryant has been on this “victory lap” for about 3 months now; plenty of people have put themselves in the camp that they wish he would go out gracefully instead of the way he is doing so because – and this is important – they want to remember him the way he was and not the way he is now. Two points here:

    Focus on how you remember him from his glory days and shrug off a sub-standard performance or two that you might see this season. That is what you would have done if he had chosen to retire back in December instead of “soldiering on”.

    The very fact that you yearn to remember him differently – and gloriously – demonstrates how good a player he was over the course of his career. That fact assures that he will have a “legacy” and that it will be a positive one.

Kobe Bryant was not the greatest NBA player of all time. In fact, I would argue that he was not even the greatest Laker of all time; in my mind, that position is occupied by Magic Johnson but I acknowledge that other fans may put some other Laker in that exalted slot. Having said all of that, Kobe Bryant was an exceptionally gifted player; he will be remembered for a very long time; when people reminisce about his on-court skills and leadership and energy, they will remember all of that in a positive way.

When my kids were young, they grew up watching Sesame Street which meant that I too spent time watching that program. Call it a guilty pleasure if you want, I used to enjoy Sesame Street almost as much as my kids did. In the Washington Post yesterday, in the agate-type “Transactions” column, I was reminded of Sesame Street. With regard to pitchers signing contracts, it was a day brought to you by the letter “Y”:

    Rangers signed Yohander Mendez to a 1-year contract.
    White Sox signed Yordi Rosario to a minor league contract.
    D-Backs signed Yuhei Nakaushiro to a minor league contract.

Too bad the Yankees could not sign Yogi Berra to a contract on the same day. Sadly, Yogi is on the wrong side of the infield grass…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment about a former teammate – and opponent – of Kobe Bryant:

“Shaquille O’Neal is getting his own statue outside Staples Center. For nostalgia’s stake, it will be erected in the general vicinity of where his free-throw attempts used to land.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Order In The Court…

CBSSports.com has a report this morning that the legal fees paid by the parties to Deflategate could be as high as $20M. That estimate does not include the cost of the Wells Report that set much of this in motion; Wells has said that he billed the NFL $2.5M for that report. It also does not include the fees incurred by the Pats when they filed their rebuttal to the Wells Report; that rebuttal ran to 20,000 words so it surely cost more than “3 easy payments of $39.95.” Later this week when the league appeals the decision that set aside Tom Brady’s suspension, the NFLPA will have 9 lawyers in court representing the union. For the full CBSSports.com report, check it out here

A different legal battle involving an NFL player came to an end recently. WR, DeSean Jackson and agent Drew Rosenhaus had been involved in a tug-of-war over about $500K that an arbitrator said Jackson had to pay to Rosenhaus. Here is the backstory:

    Rosenhaus was Jackson’s agent; in 2013 Jackson fired Rosenhaus and hired someone else.

    Rosenhaus filed a grievance with the NFLPA saying that Jackson had borrowed $400K from him prior to the firing and that he wanted his money back. An arbitrator ruled in Rosenhaus’ favor.

    Jackson went to court to overturn that ruling claiming that Rosenhaus had bribed him to hire Rosenhaus in the first place and that Rosenhaus had not disclosed in that case that he had a prior relationship with the arbitrator. Evidently, Rosenhaus had paid the arbitrator $140K in fees involving a previous arbitration case that did not involve Jackson.

The judge overturned the arbitrator’s decision for legal reasons that I will not pretend to understand fully but it would seem in this case that the “good guy” came out ahead. Jackson does not have to pay Rosenhaus – pending an appeal from Rosenhaus that may or may not happen. However, there was an even more interesting commentary from the judge in this case. Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald noted that the NFLPA – an organization that exists to promote and protect the rights of the players who are its members – uses the same arbitrator in the vast majority of its arbitration cases involving players and agents and that the players lose about 80% of the time.

Maybe the NFL players and the folks who sit on Mahogany Row in the NFLPA office suite had not noticed that correlation prior to this matter. Now that they have a decision from Judge Fitzgerald and those stats – combined with the claims of bribery by an agent to get a player to sign on in the first place and undisclosed transactions between an agent and the most common arbitrator – how long should it take for the players and the union leaders to change the system? Personally, I would think two weeks ought to be about right…

Oh, by the way, when one is confronted by circumstances that demand a fundamental change in the way business is done, inertia and an historical mindset often make the start of the change process difficult. I am not going to try to tell the NFLPA how it should alter its arbitration processes here but I will offer them a suggestion regarding how they may begin the “restructuring process”:

    Often, a good place to start is to look at how other organizations handle similar matters. From that sort of examination, the beginnings of a new process can emerge.

    Memo to the NFLPA: I suggest you do NOT look to the NFL as a model for how to handle arbitration matters and how to mete out punishments for wrongdoings. If ever there were a set of processes that fit the description of “ineffective while simultaneously inefficient”, the NFL’s processes would the ones.

One more note for the NFLPA on this matter, do NOT look to the NCAA as your role model in this matter either. If you even tempted to do that, consider the following:

    In its headlong rush to prove that it is politically correct, the NCAA has spent lots of time and maneuvering to force certain schools to change their names/mascots. One school that had to do so was the University of North Dakota who used to be the Fighting Sioux and are now the Fighting Hawks.

    The school and the NCAA had been in court over this matter but settled it all in 2007. Five years later, the people of North Dakota voted to change the school nickname and mascot. Seriously, this was a referendum item in a primary election there.

    Here is the stupidity that could only accompany a settlement reached with the NCAA; this sets a new standard for suffering under the Law of Unintended Consequences.

      Part of the 2007 agreement requires the University of North Dakota to “retain sole possession” of the “Fighting Sioux” trademark and brand. Clearly, the purpose is to prevent some “rogue alumni group” from glomming onto it and maintaining the presence of the nickname the NCAA finds offensive. Sounds smart, no…?

      Well, in order to maintain one’s claim on a trademark, one must – inter alia – use the trademark. So, the university has set up the Dacotah Legacy Collection which makes and sells a small line of t-shirts and hats and various tchotchkes with the “Fighting Sioux” logo on it.

      So the school had to manufacture said items that – by definition – the NCAA finds offensive but in addition, the school has to sell them too in order to use the trademark thereby retaining sole possession as per the settlement with the NCAA. Where can you buy the stuff? In the gift shop at the university’s hockey arena – which is usually packed with fans because North Dakota is always one of the nation’s top hockey teams.

So, let me recap here. The University of North Dakota was forced by the NCAA to stop being the Fighting Sioux. To keep possible malcontents from perpetuating the insult of the name and brand, the school was forced to keep the trademark and that demands that the school make and sell openly merchandise that the NCAA forced them to stop making and selling in the first place.

This is so outrageous that I can only come to one conclusion:

    If stupid could fly, the NCAA would be a Supersonic Transport.

Finally, since I spoke about a player/agent matter above, consider this comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald regarding another player/agent pronouncement:

“His agent confirmed Marshawn Lynch will retire. ‘No comment,’ said the media.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

If It’s March, There Must Be Baseball…

Last week, MLB announced two rule changes for this year. The first is destined to be known as the “Chase Utley Rule” because it requires runners going from first base to second base to go directly toward the bag. Last year, Utley made a perfectly legal play according to baseball rules and history and it resulted in the Mets losing their shortstop to a knee injury. The new rule clearly is motivated by player safety and it provides a measure of protection for defensive players who now have the opportunity to get out of the way of an oncoming runner because they know where he will be sliding.

The other rule change also affects play around second base in potential double play situations. For years, baseball has had the “neighborhood play”; the umpire would call a player out on an attempted double play if the defender at second base had the ball while his foot was “somewhere in the neighborhood” of the bag. The player did not need to have the ball in his glove and have his foot on the bag simultaneously in order to get the runner called out. Starting next year, the umpires are supposed to ignore the “neighborhood play” and make the call at second base the way it would be called at first base.

I am in favor of both rule changes/adaptations; let me make that clear. At the same time, might I point out that eliminating the “neighborhood play” AND requiring the base runner to go directly to the bag at second base is a recipe for more collisions at second base? Moreover, injuries due to collisions are directly proportional to the number of collisions; ergo

Former Nats’ shortstop, Ian Desmond finally found a home in MLB. He sat out all of the free agent season without a satisfactory offer but finally signed on with the Texas Rangers to play left field for them until Josh Hamilton is recovered from his injury – presumably sometime in May. Desmond signed a 1-year deal for $8M; in his career he has played the outfield exactly once. This may seem like a strange signing for the Rangers but I think it is a good one. Let me explain.

    Ian Desmond is only 30 years old; there are still miles on those tires.

    Desmond had a terrible year in 2015 at shortstop for the Nats where he led the NL in errors (27) and only hit .233.

    However, his career batting average is .264; his career OBP is .312 and his career OPS is .736. for his career he has averaged 19 HRs and 75 RBIs per season.

    As a career infielder, Desmond can provide the Rangers with competency as a utility infielder at shortstop or second base in addition to playing the outfield. More importantly, he is a baseball player; he plays the game with focus and intensity and he plays the game properly. An $8M salary for a year is something I would fondly wish for; in this case, I think the Rangers got themselves a good deal.

Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune demonstrated last week that he is already in mid-season form with this “analysis” of a comment made by Adam Eaton as the White Sox became immersed in Spring Training:

“Adam Eaton said the White Sox are beginning a ‘ in which they do the ‘little things’’ better. Quick someone tell Eaton that hitting the ball and catching the ball are not little things.”

Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, FL, the Mayor and the head of the Chamber of Commerce announced the creation of a 30-person team whose purpose is to convince the Tampa Bay Rays to stay in St. Petersburg because that is the best place for them to play ball and flourish. The team/committee/whatever is called Baseball Forever.

The reason these civic leaders need to go to the trouble of forming this committee is that the St. Petersburg City Council recently agreed to some sort of deal with the Rays that would allow the Rays to check out possible alternative stadium sites in Pinellas County (containing St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Dunedin and Tarpon Springs) and in Hillsborough County (containing Tampa, Brandon and a place named Fort Lonesome). The Rays have expressed a desire to move to an in-town stadium in Tampa; they now have permission to see if they can make a deal to make that happen.

The launch for the Baseball Forever effort was held at a sports bar adjacent to Tropicana field where the Rays now play their home games. The committee has 30 members and the crowd in attendance was about 200 folks. Therein lies the problem the good folks of St. Petersburg must overcome. If each of the 30 members of Baseball Forever had 2 people with him/her, that would be about half of the crowd in attendance. Let me summarize the reason that the Rays want to move from St. Petersburg in the first place very succinctly:

    Attendance at home games stinks.

For the 6 seasons from 2008 through 2013, the Rays were contenders for the playoffs or they were in the playoffs or they were in the World Series. In that run, attendance peaked in 2009 at 1.875M folks; the Rays averaged 23,148 fans per game in their best year of attendance. In 2014 and 2015, the Rays were not serious playoff contenders and here is what happened to their attendance:

    2014: Finished 19 games out in the AL East. Attendance was 17,857 per game.

    2015: Finished 13 games out in the AL East. Attendance was 15,889 per game.

I am not a civic leader or a business maven or a politico; I do not know what the solution to the problem in St. Petersburg might be. Here is what I know. Unless Baseball Forever can find ways to get more fannies in more seats in Tropicana Field on a consistent basis, that team is going to move some day. The folks who make up Baseball Forever need to realize that baseball will go on – potentially forever – but that does not mean it will have to continue to be in St. Petersburg.

Finally, in keeping with today’s baseball theme, here is an item from a recent column by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Hip-hop recording artist Kanye West says he’s in debt to the tune of $53 million.

“Moral of the story: It doesn’t pay to keep doubling down on your Cubs bets.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Welcome To March…

March may come in like a lion and go out like a lamb; but here in Curmudgeon Central, I try to keep an even keel. I seek to maintain “Consistent Crankiness” from day-to-day and month-to month. Accordingly, you should not expect leonine outbursts here today. However, I make no promises about tomorrow because here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are holding our primary elections today. That means I will go to the polls later today to discharge my responsibility as a citizen. In so doing, I will approach a system dominated by people for whom I have generally low regard – or worse. Ergo, unless I mellow by tomorrow morning, I might tend to the upper limits of my “Consistent Crankiness”.

The NFL Combine is finally over. I will go out on a limb and say – without actually reading them – that you can safely skip any of the “post-mortem reports” from the event. Anything that tries to summarize the Combine activities in terms of “stock trending up” and/or “stock trending down” should not be taken with a grain of salt for the simple reason that it should not be taken in the first place. I did run across one article that dealt with the uncertainty of drafting a QB this year where none of the eligible candidates come with a pedigree similar to those of Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariotta from recent years. In that article, Bruce Arians was quoted saying:

“When you’re dealing with these guys and evaluating [them], the two muscles you can’t evaluate are the brain and the heart. And they’re the two you play with.”

That is not exactly a malapropism, but it is close. The brain – yours, mine or a quarterback’s – is not a muscle. If it were a muscle, then the brain would be a form of meat and that would make the quarterback a meathead and you would not want to draft him. In any event, that was one of the most important “insights” that I gained from reading – sparingly – about the NFL Combine. As they say in the car ads on TV, “Your mileage may vary…”

With the announcement that Tom Brady has extended his contract for 2 more years and would be playing QB at age 42 should he play out that deal, let me present to you a couple of numbers that should reinforce your belief in the fact that a top-shelf QB is critical to NFL success:

    Bill Belichick’s record when Tom Brady is his starting QB: 183-65 with 6 Super Bowl appearances and 4 Super Bowl victories.

    Bill Belichick’s record when someone else is his starting QB: 40-48.


The NFL recently provided us with yet another installment of “The Story That Will Not Die.” According to reports, two members of the British Parliament sent a joint letter to NFL Commish, Roger Goodell, urging the Commish to do one of two things:

    1. Change the name of the Washington team because the name is offensive.

    2. Alternatively, send a different team to play in London next Fall.

The two MPs were indeed in high dudgeon as they crafted their missive. Here are a few samples of their rhetoric:

“As one of the U.S.’ biggest cultural exports finds success in the U.K., the sport’s values and standards come with it. Unfortunately, it is apparent that within these values there is a deliberate insensitivity and apparent hostility to a prominent minority group.”

And …

“We were shocked to learn of the derivation of the term ‘R*dskin,’ pertaining as it does to the historic abuse of native Americans, including the production of a piece of flesh as proof of kill by bounty hunters. The exportation of this racial slur to the U.K. this Autumn … directly contravenes the values that many in Britain have worked so hard to instill.”

The Skins and Bengals are scheduled to play there in October this year and the controversy that we have dealt with on and off for the last 35 years or so has now spread across the pond. The two MPs seem not to have picked up on the key element of the dispute over the name; they seem to think that appeals to morality and good taste and respect for others is what all this is about. Actually, what it is about is far more crass; it is about money.

    Memo to Offended Members of Parliament: The Washington franchise makes money hand-over-fist using that team name. Until and unless something happens to change that fact, the team name is not going to change – and Roger Goodell will not/cannot order such a change.

What I find very interesting about this particular situation and the agita it seems to have generated in Great Britain is that the monetary aspect cuts both ways here. The presence of an NFL game in London does attract some money to the local economy and there are more than a few folks in London who would like to see a permanent NFL franchise there for economic reasons. The reality is that should the British acquire an NFL franchise, it would be part of the same league that harbors this team with this name that the MPs find sufficiently offensive that they penned the letter that they did.

The Skins make money so they are not changing their team name; the NFL puts some money into the London economy so London continues to want to host NFL games – including the one on the schedule this October between Washington and Cincinnati. That is the thing about money; it spends equally well no matter the source. That may not be the most uplifting thought for the day – but it is reality. Sometimes reality bites … sort of like the reality I am about to encounter as I head out from Curmudgeon Central and go to the polls to vote.

Finally, to close on a lighter note, here is an item from a recent column by Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Continuing on their roll, the [BYU} Cougars have received a commitment from four-star junior college transfer Handsome Tanielu.

“If BYU has any sense of humor, it will hire former Western Kentucky defensive back Wonderful Terry as a graduate assistant.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………